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Afghan Police Reported Killed In Air Strike


Smoke rises after Afghan Police diffused a land mine in Helmand in February.

Afghan officials say an air strike has killed at least 11 antinarcotics police officers in the volatile southern province of Helmand.

Mehdi Kazemi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry's antinarcotics department, says the strike on September 6 was carried out by NATO forces.

"The antinarcotics police was conducting an operation in Helmand's Garmser district when the air strike by the international forces began," he told Radio Free Afghanistan. "Unfortunately, 11 of our people were killed, and four were injured. One [policeman] is still unaccounted for."

Kazemi said an Interior Ministry delegation will arrive in Helmand on September 8.

According to the AFP news agency, NATO said in a statement that it conducted no air strikes in the province that day.

The German Press Agency (DPA) reported that a U.S. military official, Sernando Steri, said the U.S. military had carried out a bombing raid in Kandahar's Maiwand district.

Maiwand borders Helmand's Garmser district, and an Afghan intelligence official said that the air strike was close to Helmand's border with Kandahar.

DPA quoted Afghan Deputy Interior Minister Baz Mohammad Ahmadi as saying that "it is not yet confirmed who carried out the air strike."

Ahmadi said four vehicles of the counter-narcotics police were destroyed in the air strike.

Afghanistan's fledgling air force can also conduct limited aerial bombardment. The air force and the Afghan Defense Ministry, however, have declined to comment.

During the past 14 years, the Taliban have been largely in charge of the Baghran and Dishu districts in remote regions of northern and southern Helmand. In recent weeks, the Taliban has captured Helmand's Nawzad and Musa Qala districts.

But Afghan officials later claimed their forces recaptured Musa Qala on August 30.

Helmand is home to most of the world's illicit opium production, and the region is considered the main supplier of the opium and heroin mostly consumed in Western countries.

After a U.S.-led military campaign forced the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001, Helmand emerged as a flash point in the Taliban insurgency. Taliban violence attracted tens of thousands of international troops, mostly British and American, to Helmand since 2006. But they failed to completely defeat the Taliban insurgency or end poppy cultivation and drug trafficking in Helmand.

With reporting by AFP, DPA, and AP

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